[When eliminating habits with hypnosis, people discover their own minds to be more powerful than they thought.] For all the ostracism, ridicule and condemnation smokers and problem drinkers receive, they rarely receive acknowledgment for the array of positive intentions that underlie these harmful and often deadly habits. When people smoke or abuse alcohol, they may be attempting to deal with stress, enhance social abilities, overcome loneliness or handle other personal or professional problems. Needless to say, smoking and drinking can make these issues worse and create additional difficulties. Clinical hypnosis assists people in overcoming problem behaviors and more effectively satisfying their good intentions.

The response to clinical hypnosis varies, and is largely dependent on the desire and intention of each client. In a private interview I recently had with Alex Docker, Ph.D., President of the American Board of Hypnotherapy, Dr. Docker said: "If the person is sufficiently motivated to change behavior, then the change can come about very rapidly, using hypnosis." This writer agrees.

When assisting clients to stop smoking or problem drinking, hypnotherapy antidotes the effects of detrimental beliefs, some even foisted upon the public by recognized authorities. Smokers, for example, have been indoctrinated with the message that nicotine is highly addictive. Acceptance of this belief has caused countless failures for smokers. They try to break free of smoking and find that their expectancy of difficulty is, unfortunately, self-fulfilling. Belief systems are powerful, even more powerful than nicotine. Were nicotine the highly addictive substance that it is believed to be, hypnotherapists would be scheduling clients for nicotine patch cessation. I don't know of any hypnotherapist that has ever done so.

There are many techniques available to hypnotherapists. The choice of which to employ is based on the unique needs and circumstances of each client. The best known of these is a method that elicits a state of deep hypnotic relaxation. In this trance state, the unconscious mind is presented with positive suggestions and supportive mental imagery. Other techniques include the use of therapeutic metaphors and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) applications.

Clients are always in control; they are not asleep. Whatever the hypnotic method, the limitations of the conscious mind are bypassed. The therapy is effective because the root and drivers of habits are contained in the unconscious part of the mind, the area where clinical hypnosis focuses most. Clients are assisted in providing their own minds with information needed for their future benefit. When they let go of their habits, they feel self-empowered in realizing that it was their own minds that allowed the positive changes to take place.

"Thank you for saving my life," are words spoken by a hypnotherapy client of mine, who stopped smoking and drinking upon his first session with me. I thanked him for the kind words but let him know that I was only a guide in assisting him to discover his own abilities. This person, an adult, had, since childhood, a serious medical condition. Drinking and smoking were his attempt at managing decades of personal anxiety associated with his illness. He discovered through hypnosis an accessible place of inner peace and learned better coping skills to handle the stressors in his life.

His first appointment included an extensive interview. All of his questions were answered before he was assisted into a state of deep hypnotic relaxation. While under hypnosis, he was given a number of suggestions that were received by his unconscious mind; they were empowering and motivating. An "anchor" was established whereby he would reconnect, at will, with a feeling of harmony and balance that he experienced during the session. (It works for him simply like turning on a switch.)

Hypnosis provided an accelerated means of learning coping skills that included meditation and relaxation techniques. He practiced those skills, afterwards, on his own. Through hypnosis, he discovered that drinking and smoking were behaviors, not core aspects of his personality. He experienced a mental picture of himself as no longer a problem drinker or smoker, and as being comfortable, healthier and happier. There were suggestions that this future state was natural and acceptable to him. He received four hypnotherapy sessions. It is a year since he saw me, and he continues to do very well.

The unconscious mind is more powerful than any computer. It is the storehouse of memories and regulates all physical and mental processes that are below the level of awareness (even the rate you blinked your eyes as you read this article). That it can, and does, allow for behavioral transformations should not be surprising. Regrettably, this most powerful resource is, for most people, underutilized.

Those considering hypnotherapy should know that hypnosis does not replace the need for people to make necessary conscious efforts in reaching their goals. It can make those efforts easier and more likely to lead to success.

When eliminating habits with hypnosis, people discover their own minds to be more powerful than they thought. And when the smoke clears or the fog of alcohol lifts - the world, internally and externally, looks a whole lot better. [Steven A. Brodsky, C.Ht. is a board certified hypnotherapist with offices in Berwyn, Downingtown and West Chester, PA. He is an associate of the CAPHA Professional Network. Used by permission of "Progressive Health".  Progressive Health is published by CAPHA, web address: www.capha.org   Steven is a Pennsylvania hypnotherapist and can be reached at brodskyhypnosis@msn.com ]